Once Artimus finished off at school In the late '60s, he joined the Marines. He was in many ways a model recruit, and was selected as the best honor recruit in 1968. This resulted in him being awarded a full-dress Marine uniform from the Leatherneck magazine. Arti was very nearly sent into combat in Vietnam - he was being sent for training when the war drew to a conclusion. Artimus was eventually discharged from the forces on compassionate grounds - his father's Cessna 150 plane was hit from behind by a B-57 bomber over Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Once he returned home from the military, Artimus, still in love with this music, enrolled at Tennessee Technical College, Cookeville, Tennessee. It was at the college that people first began to refer to young Thomas as Artimus, who was a virgin in ancient mythology. The name was applied to him because of his extremely young looks for his age.
Artimus settled in Spartanburg, South Carolina. His first wife said she had musician friends who lived there, and indeed she did ; George McCorkle and the rest of The Marshall Tucker Band.
"I met George McCorkle and all of them and it was just like getting together and smoking a joint. So, I got to know the guys and everything. They invited me to a couple of shows".....Artimus Pyle
Still playing drums locally In the early '70s, Pyle came to the attention of Southern Rock legend Charlie Daniels, via Tucker, who gave him a job as a percussionist as the Volunteer Jam. From the CDB, Pyle moved on to play as a session drummer with The Marshall Tucker Band themselves. Pyles' association with Tucker and possibly Daniels even more so, came in very handy. Charlie Daniels was a man who Ronnie Van Zant had huge respect for. Pyle wanted to play a show with Skynyrd, and when Charlie said Artimus was a great drummer, that was good enough for Ronnie. Pyle got to meet Ronnie and Ed King at Studio One at Doraville, Georgia.
"When Ronnie Van Zant got the OK from Marshall Tucker and Charlie Daniels, hell, he hired me almost without hearing me. He set up an audition for me with Ed King and Leon in Atlanta but he didn't even show up. He said "Hire the guy". He gave me a paper sack with $5,000 cash in it. We [my wife and I] were two of the happiest people in the whole wide world. We paid our bills, we bought us a Sony Triton TV set. We were fat city"..... Artimus Pyle
Pyle played his first gig with Lynyrd Skynyrd at Sergeant Pepper's Club in Jacksonville, October 1974. The show was a charity concert to raise money for Jacksonville's food bank. At this point Bob Burns was still in Skynyrd... until December '74.
In 1974-5, Lynyrd Skynyrd were in a position where they had been left without a drummer when Bob Burns left the band. Pyle was interested when word went around that the band needed a new drummer, and due to his impressive performance at Sergeant Pepper's, he was really the only drummer in the picture.
He landed the gig and then remained as Skynyrd's permanent drummer until the plane crash in 1977. During this time Artimus was generous to other talented bands who hadn't broken like Skynyrd had, such as the late Ace Moreland's band.
Pyle's first album with Skynyrd was "Nuthin' Fancy", a chance for him to show of his distinctive double bass drumming. However, Pyle didn't need a big kit to produce his distinctive Southern feel - on the great acoustic track Artimus backs Ronnie, Gary, Ed, and guest mandolin picker Barrylee Harwood on nothing more than a marching drum and a coca-cola crate. It worked brilliantly.
One of Artimus' highlights with the band was the 1976 Knebworth festival - a huge open air gig at Knebworth, England where the band was second on the bill to the Rolling Stones. At more than 250,000 people, it was the biggest single audience the band had ever played to and they played their hearts out on the day, outperforming the Stones according to legend.
"There was 250,000 people there that day. There were no drug overdoses, it was in the middle of an English drought. There was dogfights above the crowd by old WWI aircraft. Simulated dogfights. There was hot air balloons...it was just a beautiful day"
"It was an incredible day. Incredible music and just brushing shoulders with Jack Nicholson and Paul and Linda (McCartney) and I met the Stones and all the people from the business that were there. I remember looking through a window out of our dressing trailer, and looking into this tent where Mick Jagger and Gary Rossington and Ronnie were sitting. They were smoking hash. They were tapping a pipe. I mean this was years ago so I know it wasn't crack, or whatever they smoke in that. They were passing this thing around, and I remember sitting there in my dressing room looking through the window and going "Man, I'd like to go over and smoke hash with Mick Jagger" But I didn't. I said "Nah...I'll just watch" ... Artimus Pyle
Skynyrd were on one of their many UK and European tours in 1977, when they involved in a fracas in a London hotel. With a conference going on in one of the function rooms, Ronnie and the band were drinking the bar dry. As often happens, the drink started talking and Ronnie, Gary and Artimus wound up in a fistfight with the conference delegates. Unfortunately for Skynyrd, they had selected the wrong opponents. The delegates were not paunchy businessmen, but the Metropolitan Police Boxing team. Artimus and Gary ended up being carried out of the hotel unconscious.
Artimus was one of the members of the band aboard their Convair plane when it crashed into a swamp outside McComb, Mississippi on October 20 1977. Arti recalled that Ronnie, on realizing there was "a problem" started to make toward the back of the passenger compartment. He gave Artimus the hippy handshake, and rolled his eyes, evidently not realizing the seriousness of the situation.
Once the plane had been downed into the swamp, Pyle knew that if help didn't come they would probably all die.
"My friends were bleeding and dying. I didn't think about it, I just took off running"... Artimus Pyle
Pyle had numerous wounds from the crash including broken ribs as he ran for help. It is important to remember his bravery - he had to negotiate two to three feet of swamp water, infested with snakes and alligators in pitch darkness. Eventually, Artimus spotted a farmhouse in the distance, and made for it. The farmer, Johnny Mote, saw a bloodied Pyle charging towards him, looking like Charles Manson. Unsurprisingly, Mote assumed himself to be under attack, and so he shot Pyle in the shoulder. It wasn't until Pyle could say the words "plane crash" that Mote began to realize what had happened.
Pyle survived the crash and after some time in recovery he continued to drum. His first outing was with fellow Skynyrd Billy Powell when thy helped out on an album by Texan singer-songwriter Leon LeBront. Hethen performed with some of his ex-Skynyrd colleagues in a short-lived band called "Alias" who released a solitary album in 1979 called "Contraband".
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Drum Dungeon Bio - ARTIMUS PYLE
Thomas Delmer "Artimus" Pyle (born July 15, 1948) is an American musician best known for playing drums with Lynyrd Skynyrd, for which he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.
Artimus' formative years were spent living in the country, where he learned to love horses. Arti often says he believes his love of the drums comes from listening to the rhythmic sounds of horses hooves. Also, he was often to be found driving a bulldozer for his grandfather Guy Williams. Guy was friendly with Senator Al Gore Sr, and Arti got to know him too, and was particularly friendly with Al Gore Jr, who went on to become Vice President of the United States.
"Grandma would always have country, pure Nashville, Tennessee, country music blaring over the radio with a lot of static. Real bad reception, just blasting through the house to get everybody up for breakfast"... Artimus Pyle
Music was always there for young Arti. His dad sometimes conducted swing bands and sang a little. In fact country and swing music dominated the airwaves for Artimus.
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At the age of just nine, Artimus was bought his first percussive instrument - a set of bongo's - by his mom, who could see how much her son loved and appreciated music and rhythms. His dad helped him upgrade to a being a full blown drummer within another three years, when he bought him a quality second hand red sparkle Slingerland kit.
The Pyles often moved around a lot, because Artimus' dad was an architect who had to move with his work. Artimus spent his teenage years in Columbus, Ohio.
This enabled the young Arti to develop his skills and finally allowed him to participate in his first band, "The Thom Thumbs"
Artimus Pyle Band [APB] in 1998 at the Ronnie Van zandt park jammin' on an old favorite.
The one and only Lynyrd Synyrd in 1976 performing their mega hit Saturday Night Special in England
Artimus gives a bit of a speech to introduce a jam at a drum off.
He was then lined up to be the drummer for the Rossington Collins Band, but partways through the preparation of the first RCB album, Pyle broke his leg in a motorcycle accident in South Carolina. The band tried to make provision for his recovery by pushing back the recording dates, but eventually Artimus decided that his participation was not fated, and he pulled out. He was replaced in the band by well known Jacksonville drummer Derek Hess. He wasn't forgotten however, and was mentioned in the credits in the liner notes of the first Rossington Collins Band album ""Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere"., as well as introducing the RCB at a concert in Orlando, Florida.
With Arti unable to participate in the Rossington Collins Band, he formed his own band in 1981 - APB (All Points Bulletin) with Darryl Otis Smith, John Boerstler, Steve Brewington and Steve Lockhart. The band put out two MCA albums, 1982's "APB" followed by "Nightcaller" in 1983 (on which Lockhart was replaced by Russ Milner and new vocalist Karen Blackmon)
In 1987, the Skynyrd reunion was being planned, and when the time came for a drummer to be found, Artimus was the man they turned to, ahead of even Bob Burns - after all, Arti had the bond of being a crash survivor and was also with the band in '77, and the reunion was to continue as close to that lineup as possible. Arti got the call to say the band was going to play a one off show. At this time he was living and working in Jerusalem. He was on a plane home to America within 24 hours, with a plan that he would commute between his home in Israel and the Tribute Tour in America. He rejoined his former colleagues for the Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute Tour in 1987.
The Tribute Tour was not without problems, especially when Judy Van Zant and Teresa Gaines took the band to court. Judy had a document signed on a drug filled night in 1978 which was signed by Rossington and Collins - it said that Skynyrd's name would never be used again. Although settled out of court, Skynyrd agreed the name could only be used under the "Rule of Three" - that the band had to include Gary Rossington, and at least 2 more out of Leon Wilkeson, Billy Powell, Ed King and Artimus.
Artimus remained with the band until the recording of their comeback studio album "Lynyrd Skynyrd 1991". Pyle left the band shortly after.
"I left Skynyrd because they were doing the coke thing. I couldn't stand to be a part of that. I'm not saying that I haven't done drugs and that was years ago"..... Artimus Pyle
Not long after leaving Skynyrd, Artimus was embroiled in some heavy personal problems. His then girlfriend at the time made some horrible allegations against Artimus, allegations that served to be one of the hardest things he would ever have to face in his life.
"Three days after I was thrown in jail, not one, but two of her boyfriends moved into my house. She gave them all of my cars. I had four beautiful automobiles. She gave them ten sets of drums that I had collected all over the world. And my home." Pyle then summarizes the story: "This shouldn't have happened. When I left the band, I lost my star status, and that's when she decided to lower the boom. I put a new band together with my son and I was ready to go on. But to this girl, I wasn't a Rock-and-Roll star anymore." Pyle then added that he would have gladly given his former girlfriend all the material possessions and freedom: "We would've separated. I would've taken care of my children. But no, she has to charge me with a charge worse than murder."
Pyle's legal defense cost him half a million dollars which cleaned out his bank account and everything he made from playing with the band. With the charges facing him Pyle had little choice but to make a deal and plead guilty. Pyle was on probation for eight years, finally aquitted of all charges at age 61. His daughter Kelly, now a 20 year old women, came to support her Dad: “If those charges were true, I wouldn’t be here supporting my dad,” she said. “I love him, and I know that he is a good person.”
She also stated he pleaded guilty because the state offered him a plea bargain of probation rather than facing a potential of 25 years to life in prison. Artimus' life was changed forever due to this horrible event, but at least he has finally been proven innocent after so many years of turmoil.
When the news of this first broke, Skynyrd very quickly distanced itself from Artimus. Artimus says he went to see Rossington and Johnny Van Zant to see if they would allow him to work with them, even temporarily, to get back on his feet. They, apparently, never contacted him to do so. Although he was no longer a member of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Artimus put much of his time into helping to promote 1995's "Freebird the Movie" across the US.
After Skynyrd, Artimus was a member of The Fenwicks, before forming a trio involving Molly Hatchet's legendary bassist Banner Thomas called "The Truth". "The Truth" didn't last for a long time, due to Artimus having differences with the other two members and ever since it finished Artimus has resurrected and sustained his APB band which remains a popular draw on the live circuit. In fact, APB was the launch pad for some great musician's, most notably The Allman Brothers Band and Gov't Mules phenomenal bass player, the late Allen Woody.
In 1997, Pyle says that he was contacted by Gary Rossington and asked back into the Skynyrd fold to drum on what would become the "Twenty" album. Artimus expressed interest, but says that Gary never returned to him. Next thing Pyle knew, the band had signed up session drummer Owen Hale to perform with them.
In 1999, Artimus joined most of the original Molly Hatchet band in a one-off fund raising show for their diabetes and stroke affected leader Danny Joe Brown.
More recently Artimus has performed with the Saturday Night Special Band, a Ronnie Van Zant tribute act. The band has since renamed itself "Artimus Pyle and the Saturday Night Special Band".
In 2006, Artimus put out his notorious "Artimus Venomous" solo record. The album contains a great mix of songs from a close-knit variety of genres, revolving as one would expect around what Artimus does best, good ol' kickin' southern rock. Along with Artimus fans praising this solo effort, the recording also garnered some criticism for containing lyrics that reflected some points of past "bad-blood" Artimus had been carrying around - some critics say Artimus used the recording as a vehicle to vent. But, then again, isn't that what music and song inherently is, a vehicle to present your feelings, beliefs and overall take on life?
Also in 2006, Artimus was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with the surviving members past and present of the Lynyrd Skynyrd band. Kid Rock, a long time Skynyrd fan and friend hosted the induction ceremony that featured a one-off jam for the first time in years of the surviving original Skynyrd members.
As we look forward to Artimus' next solo endeavor, we find artimus still busy doing concerts for lost friends, benefits for many worthy causes, and drum clinics where he shares his message and love of music with the masses.
Artimus is now a happy, healthy man, living in Asheville, North Carolina, with his lovely wife Kerry.